The delicious, heartwarming tale of Misawa, two great businesses in one spot in Shibuya.

In Tokyo’s Shibuya district, there’s a convenience store that, from certain angles, looks like any of a thousand others in Japan. As pictured above, along the back wall you’ll find chilled cans of Boss Coffee and bottles of Oi Ocha green tea, and if you’re looking for something stiffer you can grab a Yona Yona Ale or look through the sake selection.

But while most convenience stores also have shelves stocked with products in the middle of their floor space, this shop, called Misawa, doesn’t. Instead, it has a pair of long counters.

Why? Because Misawa doesn’t just offer drinks and snacks, but also soba and udon, two of Japan’s favorite types of noodles. And we don’t mean they sell instant cup noodle versions, either: Misawa has a fully functioning kitchen and makes its own noodles right there in-house!

▼ You’re not getting soba that pretty from a cup.

The menu is impressively extensive, considering that this is a restaurant being operated simultaneously with a convenience store. Aside from kake (i.e. plain, hot) soba-udon, you can get your noodles tanuki (with tempura flakes), kitsune (with fried tofu), or tsukimi (with egg) style for prices ranging from 300 to 380 yen (US$2.10-US$2.65), a very reasonable price for a hot meal. You can also spruce your noodles up with optional tempura toppings, like the maitake mushrooms we added for an additional 150 yen.

And, of course, the drink menu consists of anything for sale in the convenience store, from soft drinks to hard liquor.

Not in the mood for noodles? No problem! Misawa’s staff can also whip you up a plate of curry rice, gyudon (beef bowl), or tempura rice bowl.

There’s also a “snack” menu, with light fare such as tofu and edamame, and also a tonkatsu pork cutlet.

Also an option is adding any of the snack foods sold in the convenience store part of Misawa as a side dish, such as the 320-yen can of “Italian-seasoning miso mackerel” we selected.

Taking our first taste of Misawa’s soba, we had instant proof that the place is fully committed to both sides of its dual identity. The broth has a rich flavor with an enticing hint of sweetness, and the noodles are unobtrusively delicious, providing an excellently balanced element that ties the broth and toppings together.

But while Misawa was pleasing our palate, it was still scrambling our brain. The shop’s exterior signage is 100-percent in the aesthetics of Japanese noodle joints…

…and the register exists in both a figurative and literal half-way point between convenience store and soba restaurant.

Luckily, the owner, Mr. Misawa himself, was on hand to tell us the story of how this unique business came to be.

Before Misawa reached its current form, the shop was actually a branch of convenience store chain Three F that Mr. Misawa managed for 17 years. In 2017, though, Three F got bought out by Lawson, and rather than rebrand his franchise, Mr. Misawa decided to go independent. “[But] I wanted to try something new [too],” he says. Thinking back to when he lived in Utsunomiya and would often eat at standing soba restaurants, he decided to give noodle-making a try. One of his regular convenience store customers introduced him to a noodle chef who taught him what he needed to get started, and the half-restaurant, half-convenience store Misawa was born.

But why keep going with the convenience store? Two reasons. On the practical side of things, remodeling the entire interior into a full restaurant would have entailed extra costs. But the bigger, and more heartwarming, reason is that Mr. Misawa wanted to continue serving the regular customers who’d supported his convenience store business for so long. In Japanese cities, where most people don’t own a car and do their shopping on foot, having a convenience store within walking distance makes a huge difference in your daily life, and Mr. Misawa didn’t want to leave his clientele completely in the lurch by shutting down his convenience store completely.

It’s the sort of kindness you’d expect from a guy who still sees customers off at the door when they’re going home, even if a combination soba restaurant/convenience store isn’t something we ever expected to find.

Restaurant/shop information
Misawa / みさわ
Address: Tokyo-to, Shbuya-ku, Shinsencho 9-6
住所 東京都渋谷区神泉町9-6
Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]